It is extremely important when you are towing your caravan or camper trailer that you can see what is going on around your car. Your car mirrors are designed to give you a good view around your vehicle when driving, however they don’t always give you enough vision if you are towing a caravan or camper trailer.
A towing mirror can be either a larger mirror that replaces your regular car mirror, giving you more view, or an extra mirror that clips onto your car near the existing mirror that’s angled to see down your trailer. Towing mirrors are a must if what you are towing is wider than the tow vehicle.
Choosing the best towing mirror can depend on your car, what you are towing and where you are going to be driving.
Do I need a towing mirror?
The vehicle standard for rear vision mirrors in Australia states that your side mirrors must allow you to see 20 meters down the side of your car and caravan and 4 meters out sideways from the end of that point. Normal side rear vision mirrors are designed to do that and may allow you the correct vision if you have a small camper that does not exceed the width of your vehicle.
However, if the camper or caravan you are towing is wider than your car, it will block your vision. In this case you are going to need a mirror that allows you to see past what you are towing to the road and surrounds. Not only is it a legal requirement, it is a safety issue, as you need to be able to see down the sides of your van when you are changing lanes.
The above diagram shows you the difference in your vision with towing mirrors and without. The vision behind your vehicle is quite compromised without towing mirrors and this could be deadly for you or someone else.
Different types of towing mirrors
Towing mirrors, like everything these days, come in a number of different varieties. Choosing a the best one for you may come down to what tow vehicle you have and your budget.
Mirror mounted / clip on
The most common towing mirrors are ones that mount onto your existing mirror via clips or straps. These are a very popular type of mirror as they are quick and easy to install when you are wanting to tow your camper.
They give you an extra mirror that you can angle to get the correct vision down the length of your camper. The downside of these types of mirrors is that they can vibrate and come off, especially at speed or over corrugations, so it does pay to get a type with a good mechanism.
You may also find that they fold the whole car mirror in (if you have a type of mirror that can fold) in high winds and with the wind provided by oncoming traffic, especially trucks. Some mirror mounted models have a support arm to prevent folding in when faced with the winds from oncoming traffic. These arms attach to your door through a suction cup or magnet.
Door mounted mirrors
Door mounted mirrors provide a bit of extra stability over the mirror mounted models as they attach to the door, rather than just the mirror. Because of this they are slightly harder to install, and also generally mor expensive. They are better suited to larger vehicles like utes and 4WD’s.
Another option is to replace your existing mirror permanently. These mirrors are usually much bigger than your standard mirror and can be extended out when towing. When not used for towing, they are brought back in and used as regular car mirrors. Some models also feature electronic adjustment controlled from the driver’s seat.
As these are a permanent change to your car, they are more expensive then the other types of mirrors. You will also need to purchase the correct ones that fit your particular vehicle. The good thing about the above the less permanent type is they can’t fall off, get blown in or stolen. They are great for people that tow regularly, but you may not be able to justify the cost if you only tow once or twice a year.
We haven’t tried these yet due to the cost, however you can get them off eBay for around $300 – $550.
A lot of people recommend Clearview mirrors. These start at around $700 and work up from there depending on the car, and what gets included in the mirror (indicators, blind spot monitoring etc).
What about rear-view cameras?
A rear-view camera can be fitted to the back of your caravan or camper for an added view of things behind you. While a good option for better vision, they WILL NOT replace your need for a towing mirror. Even if you have a camera, you will still need to ensure you have a compliant towing mirror. This is because the rear-view camera does not give you the 4m view out from the edge of your camper.
Rear view cameras on the back of the car can also be helpful when trying to hitch up your caravan or camper trailer, especially if you are trying to do it by yourself.
Things to consider when buying a towing mirror
Not all towing mirrors are created equal, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive one either. When buying a towing mirror, think about a few key aspects.
Field of view
The whole point of a towing mirror is to improve the vision of your vehicle and camper so you want to make sure the mirror you choose is going to do the job. Taller and wider mirrors offer a larger view and the type of glass used can also affect what you see.
Ease of installation
Some types of mirrors are easier to install then others. If you are going to need to take them off and on often, then it can become cumbersome if they are difficult to do.
Remember that when you are not towing, you will need to take the towing mirror off (unless it is the permanent type) so you want to be able to do it with ease.
Check to make sure the towing mirror you choose is compatible with your vehicle. Not all mirrors will work with all vehicles – even some “universal” mirrors may have issues if your existing mirror is an odd shape.
If you are going for a permanent option, make sure it is the right mirror for your vehicle. For example, if your current mirror has indicators built in, you must replace it with one with indicators.
Cleaning and maintenance
Use a glass cleaner to maintain both your existing car mirror and the towing mirror. When taking off your towing mirror make sure you are checking any mechanisms for wear and issues. If you’re concerned about a clip-on mirror falling off when driving, you can use a zip tie to attach the frame to the car mirror.